Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Journalists Killed In Syria: Mandates And Assumptions In Computing Numbers

An issue that comes up when speaking about extrajudicial killing, disappearances, imprisonment or exiled journalists is that the numbers compiled by media watchdogs do not always tally. This blog referred to discrepancies in the numbers of imprisoned journalists in the computation by Reporters without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its post of December 19.

Numbers matter. But discrepancies usually occur not because of intentional falsification of figures or careless errors, but because organisations adopt differing assumptions or criteria used to compute the numbers.

On December 30, CPJ posts an article on an important issue that has been in the news – the number of journalists killed in Syria in 2013. It says it is 29. But the authors of the post Jason Stern and Mark Robson also tell us how they arrived at the figure.

“Other organizations that do similar reporting, like Reporters Without Borders, SKeyes, and the Syrian Journalists Association, all do tremendous work. They face the same challenges and debate the same questions we do, even as they may differ in mandates and methods. As a result, we have all arrived at different numbers of journalists killed in Syria this year. But ultimately we all agree on one fact: Syria is the deadliest country in the world to work as a journalist,” they write.

You can read the post here

Monday, December 30, 2013

Crackdown On Ukraine's Journalists: Where Personal And Political Merge

Protests Against Assault on Journalist in Kiev (Pic New York Times)

At first it appears the latest affront to media freedom – the brutal assault in Kiev on journalist Tatyana Chornovol in the early hours on Christmas Day – is the consequence of her critical account of Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko’s financial dealings. But that Zakharchenko controls the police that have repeatedly clashed with anti-government protestors in Ukraine, shows how the personal merges with the political in a country bereft of the rule of law.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Equipping Journalists Better By Changing How Journalism Is Taught

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has in a recent blog post brought together the views of two minds on what ails journalism today and how it could be improved.

Titled ‘Journalism Education and the Teaching Hospital Model,’ it features views of Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Professor Thomas Patterson and Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation.

Journalists have a duty to inform the public and the way they do it now is deeply flawed. Only by deepening journalists’ understanding of what they write can they be expected to inform the public better, they say.

The article is based on an interview given by Patterson, (author of the book ‘Informing the News’) to Harvard Gazette’s Christina Pazannese, and a keynote address to Dutch educators by Newton, (author of ‘Searchlight and Sunglasses: Notes form the Digital Age of Journalism’). Both argue for a new approach to teaching journalism in schools which focus on equipping professionals of the future.

“Instead of simply learning the basic craftwork of a story – how to structure a story with a compelling lead or how to properly conduct interviews – Patterson stresses the importance of learning how to best inform the public. Furthermore, he calls for a complete overhaul of the current reporting system towards a new path called, ‘knowledge-based journalism,’” says World News Publishing Focus.

You can read the article by clicking here

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Malaysia Censoring 'No Fire Zone,' An Attack On Art - Index On Censorship

Index on Censorship (IoC) has highlighted five cases of artistes attacked in 2013 for their performances as an infringement on their freedom of expression. However, while four of the five cases are of intolerant governments and militants groups trying to silence critical voices of performers in their own countries, one instance is different.

Lena Hendry is a programme officer for the non-profit KOMAS in Kuala Lampur Malaysia, but could be imprisoned and fined if found guilty by the Malaysian courts for the private screening of No Fire Zone, a documentary on the massacre of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka during the final few months of the civil war ending in May 2009.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Faisal Salih Acquitted By Sudan Court Of Writing "Lies"

Faisal Salih (2nd left) Catherine Antoine (left) at Peter Mackler Award

In a bold move, a Sudan court acquitted editor and columnist Faisal Mohamed Salih, winner of the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism, of writing “lies” and “insulting the state” that could have earned him a six-month jail sentence.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Freedom Of The Press Foundation's Fight To Protect Journalists From Eveasdroppers

Even as the past week saw at new developments to curb NSA’s surveillance programmes to mass collect metadata of phone call records and content of personal communications via the internet, journalists threatened by government agencies to use phone records to trace their sources of information, are developing new tools to outwit the spies.

Among them is Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) that is improving encryption tools by crowd-funding it. According to the PBS blog MediaShift, tools include the TOR Project, Tails, RedPhone and TextSecure, and LEAP Encryption Access Project.

“[i]ncreasingly, law enforcement doesn’t need to have journalists testify in court because they could get a secret subpoena to look at their phone records and metadata. So what we need from journalists now to protect sources are new tools that can head off that kind of surveillance as well as reforming the laws that allow that kind of surveillance to happen,” said Josh Stearns, a board member of FPF in conversation with MakeShift’s Denise Lu.

You can read the post by clicking here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Above 50% Journalists Imprisoned Worldwide From China, Iran, Turkey - CPJ

(Pic. courtesy CPJ)

Three countries – Turkey, Iran and China – incarcerated more than half the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2013 says a statement by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on a study done by the organisation’s editorial director Elena Beiser.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Eight Journalists Killed In 2013 Broke All Records In India - RSF

(Pic courtesy The Guardian)

India ranks first among democracies and third in the world, in the number of journalists killed in the line of duty this year. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kurdistan Does Better Than Iraq Investigating Journalists' Killings

Kewa Germayani (Pic IFJ)

Autonomous regions within States are sometimes more progressive in enforcing the rule of law in comparison with the States themselves. An example is the contrast between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the national government of Iraq in dealing with infringements on freedom of the media.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) was carved out of Iraq in the 1970s after years of bitter fighting between the Kurds and the Arab-dominated Iraq. It has remained autonomous despite being under attack by Iraqi governments, most notably President Saddam Hussein.

On December 5, Kewa Germayani, editor of the magazine ‘Reyal’ was shot dead in front of his home at Kalar in the KRI. According to the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF), he had written extensively on corruption in the KRI and under threat. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Forthright Comment In Online Comments

The Open Society Foundation website has posted an interesting article on a report that examines the challenges to editors as they walk the fine line of moderating comments pre-publication, while trying to facilitate robust exchanges on controversial subjects.

The report ‘Online Comment Moderation: Emerging Best Practices’ was undertaken for the World Editors’ Forum by interviewing 96 publications that accepted comments. The study followed the controversy that emerged in the Estonian online portal ‘Delfi.’ When anonymous comments published in ‘Delfi,’ an Estonian court had found the portal liable. ‘Delfi’ in turn appealed to the European Court on Human Rights, which upheld the national court’s verdict.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sri Lanka's President Calls Playwright To Commiserate After Banning Play

Glorious Honourable Excellency Chaminda Pusswedilla (Pic Colombo Gazette)

Sri Lanka that stands 163rd of 179 states in the Reporters without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index took a new step in suppressing freedom of expression when it banned an English-Sinhala play satirising the country’s president and government. But taking matters to farcical proportions was President Mahinda Rajapakse calling on playwright Feroze Kamardeen to commiserate with him and distance himself from the censorship.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Exasperated Media and Rights Organisations Appeal to Syrian Abductors

Bourgeoning violence in Syria saw two appeals with multiple signatories being addressed to the warring groups in that country. One letter asks the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria to desist from kidnapping journalists, while the other addressed to the abductors of four well-known human rights activists working near Damascus, demands their release.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Another Honduran Journalist Killed As Defeated Castro Disputes Polls

As Honduras’ unsuccessful candidate at the November 24 presidential election Xiomara Castro continued to dispute the polls result, the ensuing political turmoil has claimed another journalist’s life. What is unfortunate is that he is the third journalist killed this year in Honduras and more tragically also the third from Globo Media Group which is known to support Castro.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Internet Makes Governments More Responsive To Voters

The transformative role played by the internet is highlighted in an article in CircleID that says the top-down approach the conventionally powerful – politicians, business elites, international organisations among others – use to control the less-empowered masses is changing due to technology.

“Governments and international organisations will need to transform like all the other sectors. The top-down paradigm no longer works; a much broader approach needs to be taken, from the bottom up, if they are to remain relevant in the new digital age,” says Paul Budde of Paul Budde Communication.

Friday, December 6, 2013

US Timid in Taking On Beijing About Journalists' Visas - China Law & Policy

Reuters' Paul Mooney (Pic. courtesy CLP)
Written days before the most recent hurdles placed by Beijing preventing journalists of two prominent US media organisations – Bloomberg and The New York Times – from obtaining work visas for the coming year, this two-part article in China Law and Policy (CLP) examines the hurdles before foreign correspondents to stop them from reporting from China.

‘Another American Reporter Banned from Beijing’ by Elizabeth M. Lynch, while unsparing of China’s policy in granting visas is also critical of the US Government’s timidity in challenging Beijing and is cognisant of the consequences if the foreign media is prevented from covering the country comprehensively.

“To date, the U.S. government has remained silent about China’s assault on foreign journalists, even as U.S. citizens and news outlets are increasingly targeted… The U.S. government’s silence is not without its costs.  As the world’s second largest economy and an increasingly bellicose nation, accurate reporting on the country is imperative to the United States. 

“If Beijing is permitted to continue to trifle with foreign journalists’ visas, frank reporting on China will become a relic of the past.  But it is the U.S. government that can prevent this outcome if it chooses to act and not wait for the situation to get worse.  Which it will if the past year is any guide,” said CLP.

The article used Reuters' Paul Mooney to give a human face to the problem.

“In April 2013, Mooney was summoned to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco for an interview.  But again what should have been a routine affair proved to be a 90 minute interrogation.  Familiar with his articles and prior visa interviews, the consular officer grilled Mooney on some of his more critical articles such as the suppression of Chinese rights activists and the Chinese government’s treatment of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng.  According to Mooney, the official ended the interview telling him that if China let him back in he hoped that his reporting would prove more ‘objective,’” said CLP.

Read the article here

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New York Times, Bloomberg To Be Expelled From China

US VP Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping  (Washington Post) 

Two US-based media organisations – the New York Times and Bloomberg News – could be expelled from China with Beijing refusing to renew work visas of their journalists. Recent articles by both highlighted issues of corruption and nepotism among China’s elite.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Important Study On Media Literacy

The Centre for International Media Assistance (CIMA) recently published ‘Media Literacy 2.0: Sampling of Programs around the World,’ which builds on three reports compiled by the organisation in 2009.

In its follow-up publication the Washington DC-based CIMA, which is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy asks the question “Do media literacy programs offer a promising new approach to media development, or is it yet another example of further fragmentation of overall media development efforts? What have we learned in recent years about how to best approach such programs? Has the expansion of social media and mobile devices had an impact on the way media development organizations approach media literacy?”

The study done by John Burgess contends that while there is much research needed on the subject of media literacy this attempt highlights some approaches to study of the subject.

You can read the report by clicking here  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tortured, Imprisoned and Beterayed, Muhammad Bekjanov Fights Against Uzbek Repression

Muhammad Bekjanov (Pic. PN America)

The prestigious Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Prize 2013, was announced Wednesday. The recipient in the ‘individual’ category was Uzbek journalist Muhammad Bekjanov, serving his 14th year and second sentence in prison, while Sri Lanka’s Tamil-language newspaper the ‘Uthayan,’ attacked 35 times during its 28-year existence was awarded in the ‘newspaper’ category.

This blog featured the life and times of the ‘Uthayan’ in its post, Thursday. Today we will take a brief look at Bekjanov editor of the opposition newspaper ‘Erk’ and the political environment in which he wrote. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Forty-five Journalists Among Injured As Ukranian Police Attack Protestors

Protests in Kiev

Journalists were among those injured Sunday, when Ukrainian police attacked protestors who broke away from a 300,000-strong demonstration in Kiev to storm President Viktor Yanukovych’s offices after he refused to sign a free trade agreement and establish deeper political links with the European Union.